While video game stories and graphics are what hook players, and the characters are what make it onto the t-shirts, it is often the musical score of the game that can make or break a franchise. Where would Super Mario be without its incredibly popular theme song? Why is the Halo soundtrack an in-demand item from media sellers across the world? If you are a musician who is trying to break into the world of video game scores, then you are both bold and ambitious. With multimillion-dollar budgets funding the latest and greatest games, producers are looking for soundtracks that will captivate and inspire their players.
Study video game music. This cannot be a passing glance at some popular soundtracks; it should be an in-depth analysis of all kinds of game music. From the moody and chilling strains of popular horror games Doom 3 and Silent Hill to the rousing, emboldening scores of games like Halo and Mass Effect, you should immerse yourself in the world of video game music, taking in everything that’s been done, that is being done, and where you think the genre will go from here.
Pick an upcoming game and write a sample score for it. It doesn’t have to be a long or involved piece, but simply something that will convey what you believe the music for that type of game needs to convey. For this, you can compose your music in a computer program, as sound quality isn’t as important as general effectiveness. When the game comes out, play it through and see if your song would fit any of the scenes. Do this several times until you are comfortable and successful with the process.
Offer your services as a freelance score-writer for amateur games. Work with musicians (if you need them) to create the best possible music you can for these projects. If you can sell your music to these companies, then congratulations; you’re a professional in the industry. Otherwise, you can ask for a finished copy of the score and possibly the game itself to add to your work portfolio. If possible, start a website showcasing your work to which you can link potential big-name game developers. Try to compose music for several different genres of games--not only to hone your own skills, but to show employers how versatile you can be.
Approach prospective employers with your portfolio of work, including a demo CD or a link to an online index of your published pieces.
Be sure that your work is up-to-date and polished, and that people are seeing only your best work at all times.
Don't be afraid to limit the number of pieces in your portfolio to only your five best; often. Too many pieces can make an artist seem like an unpredictable gamble.